Updated: August 19, 2019 10:48 PM
The City of Duluth will soon ask for proposals to potentially develop some public golf course land. No land has been sold, but it's another small step forward in exploring that option.
Every time a resolution related to selling public golf course land is on the City Council's agenda, it draws strong emotions and opinions. But Monday night, councilors unanimously approved the next step.
Many said it is wise to explore all the options but have plenty of discussion before making a decision.
First District Councilor Gary Anderson said it will take a "very, very creative" project to earn the necessary eight yes votes. But he said he thinks it's worth exploring, especially in Lester.
"Here, we have a new opportunity on land that is close to a bus line, that is close to an established retail district that has a wonderful grocery store in it," Anderson said. "This is an established neighborhood where additional housing ... if it's done in the right way, could absorb this new housing."
Dan Baumgartner, president of the Friends of Duluth Public Golf group said that many small details need to be ironed out before any land could be sold.
"I think the golf community supports tonight's resolution as an option to keep on the table. We've been working with the city in good faith to make sure that Lester and Enger have a future long into tomorrow," Baumgartner said.
However, half a dozen speakers at Monday night's meeting mostly opposed the idea of selling any public land.
"We've all heard the saying, 'Think globally, act locally.' So here's our chance. Let's do it," Libby Bent said. "Globally, we've watched biodiversity and climate crises unfold. Nationally, we've watched the greatest selloff of public lands in American history. But locally, we can fiercely protect our public lands and green spaces."
Several people also requested the city create a master plan for Lester and Enger and put a Golf Advisory Board in place.
"A master plan has never been developed for these two parcels of property," Dennis Isenhagen, a member of the golf advisory committee, said. "There is far more that can be done with this land that would be benefit all parties concerned."
Duluth's Chief Administrative Officer, Noah Schuchman, said administration is still working toward the Golf Advisory Board. He said they are working on drafting bylaws by September and hope to have the group working by the end of this year or early 2020.
Schuchman said city administration is not rushing to sell land, and there is no developer in place at this point.
"This is purely the next step," he told councilors.
Second District Councilor Joel Sipress said a decision not to move forward with the Request for Proposals, or RFP, would be a decision to put Duluth public golf at risk.
At Large Councilor Arik Forsman said this may not be the answer, but he thinks they need to take an "all of the above" approach to see if there are concepts that can meet the bar for selling public land.
Schuchman expects the RFP to be out in about a month. First, the planning staff have to craft it and lay out the criteria for projects. Then, the RFP will be out for a set amount of time, after which city staff will review each proposal.
Eight of nine councilors must approve the sale of any public land.
Updated: August 19, 2019 10:48 PM
Created: August 19, 2019 09:51 PM
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